I was recently engaged to conduct a sharing session with a group of design students about creativity and ‘owning my story’.
The lecturer who invited me told me that some students are lost without a direction after college. I smiled, but I didn’t tell her that I feel the same sometimes.
After 5 years of multiple careers, I learn that life is a long process of aligning action, meaning and reality. There are, however, a few truths that are consistent across all transitions.
#1 Be brutally honest with yourself
Half a year into a ‘good start’ of my career with the endorsement from a great business school and a job in a prestigious company, all the joy in life was sucked out of me. I asked myself, ‘is this it?’
Having the experience of making coffee and serving customers during college, I knew that there was something out there that I really enjoyed. So, I quit a good job and ended up joining a startup coffee chain without a plan.
Looking back, my life adventure started by acknowledging my pain and recognizing the potential greatness of life.
#2 Leverage on your naivety and courage in your 20s
I co-founded a café consultancy company when I was 25, thinking that I’ve learned everything from the previous job in a startup company.
I appreciate my naivety and courage for a thrilling experience that was full of ups and downs, stretching myself to the max like never before.
I’ve overcome challenges that I never knew I could, endured endless burst of self-doubt, and walked away 2 years later with a much better understanding about who I am.
#3 You have the power to change your narration
Life teaches me an important lesson early in life that even though I had a great title, enough money in the bank account, and a rooftop on my head, I could fall into depression when I lost my purpose.
When I finally realized the disconnection between my action and the purpose to ‘help people live a fulfilling life’, I changed my narration from being passionate about coffee to people.
I was fearful of the response from people around me, but I had to ask myself, ‘do I care more about the outside or the inside?’
#4 There is no storm that never ends
When I exit from my first venture and went back home without a job, career and future plan, it was the most humbling and beautiful experience in life.
From shame and guilt, I learned to establish my self-worth from everything internal — my values, passion and purpose. I learned that life is much more than career and money, there is no storm that never ends.
Whether it is success or failure, life has its gift for me in all seasons.
#5 Intention over results
When I came out of rock bottom thinking that I was done with the coffee industry, I spent 3 months operating a café as it was the only option available to me.
While I was there, I met someone who needed help to write a book. I told him frankly that I had no experience and shared my belief in writing. I wanted to serve if I could.
He gave me a book deal changed my life trajectory.
Don’t sell yourself short
“The best advice I can give a 15-year-old is: don’t rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well, but they just don’t understand the world.” — Yuval Noah Harari
I grew up in a traditional Chinese family where the older generation attaches a good life to economic security.
They meant well but the world is changing. I need to change the way I think, the way I navigate life, the things I prioritise.
I couldn’t dictate the best way to live life, but one thing I know for sure is that when I let go of fear and do something with the intention to serve, life is the true force that has more to give.
Hi, I am Isabelle, author of ‘The Art of Owning Your Story’, I write about conscious living and personal growth, building a podcast called ‘Own Your Story’. If you enjoy what you read, subscribe to get the latest contents delivered straight to your mailbox! Thank you 🙂